Friday, 29 April 2016

Swaziland unveils plan to legalise rhino horn to pay for anti-poaching efforts

Leaked document shows proceeds from the sale of 330kg stockpile would be used to protect country’s 73 white rhinos from poaching


Thursday 28 April 2016 16.40 BST
Last modified on Thursday 28 April 201620.57 BST

The kingdom of Swaziland has made a surprise proposal to legalise the trade in rhino horn in order to pay for anti-poaching measures.

In a leaked document addressed to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), Swaziland’s anti-poaching body said it wanted to sell the country’s 330kg stockpile of horn collected from naturally deceased animals and confiscated from poachers.

It said the sale to the traditional medicine markets of the far east would generate $9.9m, which would be used to protect the tiny landlocked country’s 73 white rhinos from poaching.

Swaziland proposed to sell a further 20kg each year, raising $600,000, by harvesting horn from living herds. Rhino horns regrow after being cut.

The Cites Management Authority of Swaziland, which made the proposal, said the 39-year-old ban on trading rhino horn had failed. It cited the poaching crisis in neighbouring South Africa, where 1,175 rhinos were killed in 2015.

“At present 100% of the proceeds from the sale of rhino horn are taken by criminals, while rhino custodians pay 100% of the costs of rhino protection and production yet they desperately need funds to cover these costs,” said the authority.

Analysis Can legalised trade save Africa's last rhinos from poaching?

A South African court decision to lift a ban on trading rhino horn has divided conservationists. In the race against poachers a solution must be found quickly – but the wrong decision could be catastrophic

Contacts directly involved in the drafting told the Guardian that they had formally lodged the proposal with Cites. It will now be formally discussed and voted on at the Cites Conference of Parties in Johannesburg in September. The bid is likely to fail, because the majority of parties have little appetite for a legalised trade, preferring to focus on dampening demand in the Asia.

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